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Child Arrangements What You Should Know

11th May 2015

Many families have to grapple with the consequence of a relationship breakdown. Everyone knows through personal experience of friends, family or with their own lives, the effect that a relationship breakdown can has on a family, not least of all the children.

Child arrangements post-separation, or even when you are contemplating leaving a relationship are vital. There is no way in which a family can function effectively without children seeing both parents, unless there is a compelling reason why for this should not happen. The law reflects this position and except in the most serious situations, inevitably there will be contact between both parents and children post-separation.

The real issue is generally what should happen, how and when. Often, people are able to make effective arrangements themselves taking into account a variety of factors and circumstances. In effect, there is a requirement for certainty so that everyone knows what should happen and when, together with a degree of flexibility. However, these two principles are not always easy to reconcile and there must be give and take between parties.
There is now a presumption in law that both parents will be involved in the lives of children post-separation. Whilst the exact meaning of this has yet to be determined, it is little more than a statement of the existing state of affairs although it now has the gloss of legislation.

In my experience the most important quality to preserve, the one that makes the difference between effective and ineffective arrangements, is goodwill between the parents. This may usually be the first casualty of a separation, but efforts must be made by all to ensure that to the extent that it is possible, channels of communication are kept open.

The best approach is to sit down and discuss what each of you feels should happen, if that is possible. If not, emails can be (within reason) a useful way of setting out and keeping track of the arrangements you wish to make. Courts adopt a child-centred approach, one that places the needs of the children above those of the parents “rights”, so let this inform any arrangements you plan, as it tends to find favour!

The point of separation is a time of high tension and therefore not necessarily the best time to reflect. Sometimes it is better to wait until the dust has settled before dealing with long term plans, and make short term arrangements to manage this time.

Lawyer’s involvement in cases like this can be a vice or a virtue depending on who is used and what happens. Lawyers should never be seen as a way of advancing personal or emotional issues which one parent may have following the breakdown in the relationship.

This is not the role of a lawyer and frankly we are not trained as counsellors, therapists or in any way other than in respect of the law.

The child arrangements are usually only part of the picture. The best approach to these situations is one which deals with all the issues between the parents and enables the family to move on. It is hard to disentangle the financial issues form the child arrangements for fairly obvious reasons, although the legal principles that deal with each area are kept firmly apart.

Often this encompasses not only when children should see the non-resident parent, but also the financial arrangements which also support children. A family solicitor can assist in advising on all these issues. It must be remembered that with rights also come responsibilities and it is impossible to disentangle the two. Frequently, resentments which percolate into child arrangements are caused by a lack of fairness, (real or perceived) in relation financial matters. While the principles which relate to finances and child arrangements are separate, this is to some extent a fiction. Children should see both parents, but both must contribute as well.

Here there is no substitute for speaking to a solicitor who can tackle all of the issues in one go and ensure that a fair outcome is achieved, balancing these factors and principles.

If you would like to know more about these issues, please contact Jim Richards at George Ide Solicitors.

Jim Richards, Financial disputes, Children cases and Co-habitation

George Ide
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